There are many misconceptions around the rights of the 3.3 million unmarried couple families in the UK.

Heterosexual couples will soon be able to enter into civil partnerships in England and Wales, but there will still be many unmarried couples who see no advantage in a marriage or civil partnership.

However, there are many common misconceptions about co-habitation. First, there is no such thing as ‘common-law’ marriage in the UK: co-habiting relationships have a different legal status.

In case of the worst

If an unmarried couple splits up, an ex-partner has no right to claim spousal maintenance or share of the other’s pension(s). They can only make a claim in respect of solely owned property if they can show they have made a financial contribution or have carried out repairs or improvements, which may not be the case if the non-owner stayed at home to care for children during the time they were together.

If a cohabiting partner dies without leaving a will, the survivor will only automatically inherit property the couple owned as joint tenants. If the unmarried survivor does inherit under their partner’s will – including automatic transfers of jointly owned property – they could incur inheritance tax, even if it is their home.

Surviving unmarried partners also won’t receive the state bereavement support payment. A recent Supreme Court judgement questioned this practice, but as yet the rules have not changed.

To understand the position for you and your partner, please talk to us.

The value of tax reliefs and tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate will writing, trusts and some forms of estate planning. Tax laws can change.

Blog

Further reading: